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No excuses

McClaren blames performance, and not traffic delay, for loss to West Ham

STRUGGLING: Steve McClaren's (above) Newcastle are one of three teams yet to register an English Premier League win. However, Stoke and Sunderland sit above of the bottom-placed Magpies on goal difference.
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Chelsea's fading five should be benched

A spell on the bench could rejuvenate Chelsea's farcical five




(Tomorrow, 2.40am, Singtel TV Ch 111 & StarHub TV Ch 202)

The most telling moment during Chelsea's dreadful performance at Everton last Saturday came after the second goal.

John Terry threw the ball at Diego Costa's feet in disgust.

It was the closest the frustrating striker got to possession all afternoon.

But he isn't the only culprit in Chelsea's dramatic demise.

Along with Eden Hazard, Branislav Ivanovic, Cesc Fabregas and Terry, Costa is an embarrassed member of the forlorn five; an elite group of fading stars in a futile search for misplaced powers.

Last season, the quintet's contributions earned Chelsea the title.

This season, they are conspiring to throw it away, dropping the silverware with all the grace of a butterfingered burglar.

The visit of Maccabi Tel Aviv to Stamford Bridge tomorrow morning (Singapore time) in the Champions League Group G tie offers a gentle shot of redemption for some and a little respite time for others.

All five arguably warrant relegations to the bench. Jose Mourinho, an increasingly haunted, haggard individual, is running out of options.

His hair greys, the beard grows and the temper frays with good reason. The master of man management appears genuinely bereft of ideas.

A cheeky scoundrel capable of talking his way out of a room with no doors, Mourinho is stumped.

Every mistake compounds the one before. Mourinho labours under the weight of a long line of blunders that began in pre-season, when Chelsea hauled in their squad a week earlier than most of their rivals only to send them off on a North American tour.

The Blues have appeared listless since the Community Shield.

Players who ran on empty towards the end of last season, overcompensating for a growing injury list after that explosive start before Christmas, are still not fully charged.

Fabregas and Hazard trotted towards their open-top bus parade, a fact lost in the haze of confetti celebrations and individual honours.

Ivanovic and Terry, such battle-hardened veterans, are learning quickly that an impenetrable heart is not a substitute for younger, faster legs.

And Chelsea are rapidly realising that when things are not going Costa's way, he trudges off into the wilderness rather than track back to retrieve possession.

Ironically, he offered a glimpse of his surly streak in last season's Champions League, where he was granted less time and space and failed to score once in seven appearances. He sulked, rather than scurried; a worrying trait that has spilled over into the Premier League.

So the Spaniard should be sacrificed tomorrow morning.

An exasperated Mourinho has no other weapon available to him beyond the axe. The relative minnows from Maccabi allow him to experiment.

Kenedy has raw pace and Loic Remy has the chip on the shoulder to prove himself at Chelsea. Mourinho battled to keep Remy in pre-season. This is a chance to show why.

Hazard, the reigning Footballer of the Year and still Chelsea's most enterprising attacking outlet, cannot be dropped just yet. Indeed, Maccabi should present welcome target practice for the erratic Belgian.

But Fabregas is a thorn in Nemanja Matic's side. Even the Serb's form has dipped of late, despite the wonder goal at Everton.

With Fabregas not a trustworthy partner, defensively speaking, Matic found himself baby-sitting Jon Obi Mikel against Everton and proved to be no Mary Poppins.

Chelsea's defensive shortcomings begin in their final third. Terry threw the ball at Costa with some justification. Fabregas and Costa simply do not retreat with the level of committed consistency associated with trophy chasers (let alone Mourinho's typically cautious sides).

Neither does Pedro Rodriguez for that matter, but judgment should be deferred for the time being. He's still the new kid on the Bridge.

Fabregas has no such excuses. He cannot even fall back on his creative endeavours. He's still without an assist to his name.

And Oscar, if he's fit, is waiting in the wings. He needs polish, but Fabregas already appears rusty.

Poor Ivanovic, on the other hand, has looked obsolete in recent weeks, hounded by every left back or winger gleefully exploiting the large tracts of land behind.

Baba Rahman cost Chelsea £17.2 million ($37.4m). The opening Champions League game is a chance to prove his worth at left back, with Cesar Azpilicueta sliding across to the other side.

Terry may stay, but the back-pedalling skipper did little against Everton to justify his selection.

Mourinho could make a case for demoting all five against Maccabi, but he'll avoid fracturing the squad's brittle confidence any further. Three's company on the bench, four rings alarm bells, five instigates a crisis.

But he must make radical changes now to mind those defensive gaps.

If Mourinho doesn't wield his axe, Roman Abramovich may feel obliged to introduce his.

We need one big win to come back to our way. I think at the moment we are being punished for all our mistakes.

— Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic



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How to look spylish

... like the stars in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

The movie's title may reference uncles, but you won't find any ugly ah pek fashion in British director Guy Ritchie's new spy thriller.

Based on the 1960s TV series of the same name, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. showcases a fascinating array of Cold War-era fashion, all with a distinctly mod feel.

Though the film is set in 1963,English costume designer Joanna Johnston used late-60s fashion to give it a "continental Sixties style".

"It was all about colour," said Johnston.

"It was a very radical and adventurous time across all disciplines, from art to fashion and music.

"What really struck me was the freedom of design of the time; it shines through the photography, the models, the styling, everything."

The four main characters in The Man from U.N.C.L.E are American spy Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill), Soviet agent Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer), rescued East German refugee Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander) and English-Italian villainess Victoria Vinciguerra (Elizabeth Debicki).

Each has his or her own distinctive 60s look, based on the character's social status and personality.

Johnston, who worked on Forrest Gump, Death Becomes Her and Lincoln, said Ritchie gave her free reign with the characters' designs.

"He wanted it to look just cool and sexy," Johnston told fashion site Refinery29.

Rather than having cliched, over-the-top retro fashion, she chose pieces that were "more subtle and original", but still glossy and slick, "like those films you remember where everyone looked good no matter what they were doing."

"(The fashion is) incredibly elegant and it's got a timeless quality about it," Johnston said. "It's easy to see how it settles within summer 2015, how it suddenly falls back into a perfect position in current day."

We break down the four leads' luxe looks and show you how to replicate them for less.


"You look important: or at least your suit does," a character tells Solo in the film's opening scene.

Like his British counterpart James Bond, American super-spy Solo saves the world while looking dapper in a suit.

"He's all about the vanity and projection of his appearance - so expensive, good-looking and chic," the movie's costume designer Joanna Johnston told Bloomberg.

"He has fine tailoring from Saville Row and handmade shoes, and looks like the proper gentleman. I used Timothy Everest, a well-known British tailor, to make all of Henry's suits."

Said the British actor, 32: "They were made of the most wonderful fabric. And as soon as I put them on, I felt like Napoleon Solo."

Topshop blue and grey check skinny three-piece suit ($518)

Celio* Baperfect blanc white shirt ($59.90)

Zara polka dot silk tie ($49.90)

Mango polka dot silk pocket square ($29)


Hammer jokes that his Russian spy character "was on a Soviet budget", but the handsome 29-year-old US actor carried off his practical clothing with panache.

"It didn't feel like costuming," he said. "It felt just like clothes because it was never over the top."

Johnston told Boston Globe: "You could put Armie Hammer in a brown paper bag and he'd look good.

"His look was comprised of separates, suede and corduroy jackets, slacks and, of course, the turtleneck sweaters, which was the only element I had to keep from the TV show because it's the first thing everyone I talked to mentioned."

The low-key look works for Kuryakin, as it allows him to blend into the background, waiting for his chance to strike.

Luxottica Prada 14RS Logo Sunglasses Havana 

Fred Perry Prince of Wales flat cap ($99)

Club 21 Armani Exchange leather suede blocked jacket ($990)

Topman Blue Slubby turtle neck long sleeve T-Shirt ($46)

Zara structured trousers ($69.90)


Teller is an East German mechanic recruited to help Solo and Kuryakin in their mission and she goes from dirty uniforms to chic dresses in her makeover.

"My mission was to find good, original clothing that needed to be on the conservative side, because they're trying to make (Gaby) into something she's not," Johnston told New York Post.

"Gaby is in these very clear, fresh, young colours, young styles."

The inspiration came from 60s model Jean Shrimpton, who was famed for her mod and glam looks.

When Teller visits the Vinciguerra estate, she wears a beautiful printed orange play-dress that helps her pop on screen.

Johnston also described Teller's look as "elegant and chic" and "not too heavily rooted in its time".

Swedish starlet Vikander, 26, told City TV she enjoyed both her wardrobe and the "very collaborative" process with Johnston.

Ray-Ban Round Fleck Brown Classic B-15 sunglasses ($330, Luxottica)

Dustbunny Vintage Tinkerbell Pomegranate dress with keyhole Cut-out ($129)

Deja Vu vintage white and goldtone triple loop earrings ($39)

Deja Vu vintage yellow button on silvertone ring ($59)

Zara messenger bag with golden clasp ($149)


Devious and devastatingly beautiful, Vinciguerra is the true leader of her husband's criminal business empire.

She dresses almost exclusively in black and white, the classic mod colours of the decade which also reflect her "strength."

According to Johnston, her image was inspired by 101 Dalmations villainess Cruella de Vil and aristocratic 60s model Marisa Berenson.

Debecki enjoyed her role and felt that her power put her on a par with the male lead.

Said the 25-year-old Australian actress: "In her individual way, Victoria is sort of a match for (Solo), with the consideration and application, her projection of image. She likes a lot of drama in her look. She's a snake and she wants to snare people into her lair."

Mango velvet long jumpsuit ($129)

Pinwheel Jewels candela pearl drop earrings ($142)

Aldo Kaniel bracelet ($19)

Pinwheel Jewels black eye-shaped crystal ring ($89)